KWAIDAN. (1965) A STUNNING JAPANESE ANTHOLOGY HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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KWAIDAN. (1965) BASED ON THE STORIES OF PATRICK LAFCADIO HEARN. DIRECTED BY MASAKI KOBAYASHI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a magnificently-coloured supernatural fantasy anthology film, beautifully photographed entirely on handpainted sets. Based on the ghost stories/Japanese folk tales of Lafcadio Hearn, an Irish-Greek American writer who adored Japan and who settled there permanently in 1889, the four stories feature ghosts who were once human beings, wraiths, phantasms, demons (who were never human to begin with) and the terrified Earth-folks on which they preyed.

THE BLACK HAIR tells the story of a bloke who’s married to the most beautiful, loving, faithful hard-working woman he could ever hope to meet, and yet, because they’re poor and the whole village in which they live is poor, he allows his greed and ambition to get the better of him. He leaves his wife in search of richer pickings.

He gets his wish, anyway. He finds a rich wife and a fancier lifestyle in another town, but his new young wife is spoilt and selfish, and the man finds himself yearning for the loving good nature and undying devotion of his first wife. He decides to go back to her. He makes the long trek back to his village, only to find things not quite as he left them. ‘Undying’ is right…

THE WOMAN OF THE SNOW sees a young man witnessing the strange murder of a friend one freezing cold, snowy night in winter. The murderer lets him go free, probably because he’s young and handsome, on the strict proviso that he never, ever breathes a word of what he’s seen to another living soul. Fair enough. The guy goes forth to live his life.

Ten years later, he has a good living making shoes, he has three happy children and a beautiful, loving wife who never seems to age, no matter how many children they have or how hard they have to work. One night while she’s trying on some rather snazzy sandals he’s made for her, he catches a sudden, shocking glimpse of someone he thought never to see again…

HOICHI THE EARLESS is the longest and probably the saddest and most gorgeously-photographed of all the vignettes. It begins with a terrific battle between two clans of ancient Japan, the Heike and the Genji. The Heike lose the battle, and huge numbers of the clan are drowned or commit suicide in the sea that runs red with their blood.

The sea where the tragic battle was fought and so many Heike perished has been haunted ever since. Ships that sailed that sea afterwards and swimmers who sought recreation in it were pulled to their deaths by the vengeful spirits, who clearly want everyone they come across to be as miserable and restless as they are themselves.

To appease the spirits, a Buddhist temple was established near the beach, and a cemetery also, containing monuments inscribed with the names of the drowned infant emperor and his many dead vassals.

Time passes, and a gentle, blind young man called Hoichi comes to live at the Buddhist temple, under the care of the monks. He is extremely skilled at playing a stringed instrument called the biwa, and he is particularly masterful at reciting stories and poems about the great battle between the Heike and the Genji.

So much so that, one misty night, the ghost of a long-dead Samurai comes to visit Hoichi at the temple and tells him that his masters require the presence of the blind biwa-player at their palace.

They are keen to hear his wonderful recitations of the epic battle story and all the songs and poems that go with it. Hoichi, as always anxious to please, agrees immediately and goes with the Samurai willingly…

IN A CUP OF TEA is a rather strange story about a man who finds that it is not always prudent to try to fight a man whose image you first encounter… you guessed it… in a cup of tea!

This last one feels somewhat unfinished, and is probably the weakest link in an anthology that still remains one of the most breath-takingly beautiful things to come out of Japan. And that’s saying something, considering how many weird and wonderful things have come out of Japan since the dawn of time.

I hope you get to watch this film, which, by the way, clocks in at a whopping three hours and three minutes long, and which contains one brief flash of bare boobs. In fact, now that we’re in lockdown and have, supposedly, all the time in the world in which to amuse ourselves, this might be the ideal time to do it. Enjoy it, and stay safe, y’all!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. (1965) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. (1965) MADE BY AMICUS PRODUCTIONS. PRODUCED BY MILTON SUBOTSKY AND MAX ROSENBERG. WRITTEN BY MILTON SUBOTSKY. DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS.

STARRING PETER CUSHING, CHRISTOPHER LEE, MICHAEL GOUGH, DONALD SUTHERLAND AND KATY WILD. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is one of the brilliant anthology films created by Amicus, the brainchild of Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg. Amicus were Hammer’s rivals, but they were actually pretty much every bit as good as Hammer. They were certainly terrific at doing deliciously creepy little portmanteau films like this one.

There’s also THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, starring Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt; TALES FROM THE CRYPT, in which a stunning young actress called Joan Collins gets chased through her house by an evil Santa Claus on the night before Christmas; and its follow-up THE VAULT OF HORROR. This one features brother-and-sister actors Daniel Massey and Anna Massey in a tale of vampires who terrorise a small town after dark. ‘THEY come out at night…’

Most of these films begin with a small group of random people, who don’t know each other to begin with, all coming together in the same place. TALES FROM THE CRYPT features a bunch of folks who’ve come to see a tourist attraction.

THE VAULT OF HORROR features five middle-aged businessman whose elevator has conspired to bring them to a particular room in their office building which they didn’t know existed before today. While they wait for the stalled lift to work again, the fun happens…

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is the story of various people who have all consecutively rented the same isolated house in the country, and in DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS we have five gentlemen who all share the same railway carriage together.

They don’t really have those any more, do they? Railway compartments for five or six people, I mean. (Maybe just for the Queen and her mates.) I’ve never been in one but I would have loved to travel that way, by private carriage that you could lock with a bed in it for overnighting. Such luxury!

Now you have to sit on the public seats like everyone else, breathing in the foul, fetid cough-and-cold germs of your fellow passengers and listening to their music (if you can hear it, it’s too loud!) and inane mobile phone conversations. Bring back the old days, I say!

Anyway, Peter Cushing as the mysterious and enigmatic Dr. Schreck (it means terror in German; remember Max Schreck as Murnau’s Nosferatu in 1922?) is the common denominator that brings the five male travellers together in DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. When Dr. Schreck, the sixth and final passenger to enter the carriage, is revealed to have a deck of tarot cards about his person, it excites considerable comment amongst the other men.

Pish-posh, what utter tosh! There’s no such thing as reading peoples’ futures from a silly deck of cards, you’re off your bleeding trolley! This is the opinion of one of the men, Christopher Lee’s character Franklin Marshall, the esteemed art critic.

He is utterly sceptical and scornful of Dr. Schreck’s profession, calling the soft-voiced man with the foreign accent a charlatan, a spoofer and other unflattering names intended to convey disbelief. He’s quite rude to the fellow, in fact.

You’re entitled to your own opinion, concedes Dr. Schreck with a mild smile, but nonetheless I bet you guys that these cards can accurately predict all of your futures, care to take a chance and let me do a reading for each of you? He refers to his cards as his ‘House of Horrors,’ by the way.

The men are doubtful at first, but then one chap, a Mister Jim Dawson, agrees that it might be a bit of a lark. Dr. Schreck dutifully shuffles the cards after Mister Dawson has tapped ’em three times. It’s all part of the ritual, see?

We see a vignette then in which Dawson, an architect, travels to a house on an island in the Hebrides on which he has already done some work for the owner Mrs. Biddulph, an attractive middle-aged widow.

She lives alone in the house except for the staff, an old man called Caleb and his grand-daughter Valda, played by the actress Katy Wild who will be familiar to fans of Hammer’s brilliant horror film THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN.

She- Mrs. Biddulph- apparently now wants some major structural work done on the house to accommodate her husband’s collection of artefacts pertaining to… well, I forget what. Something, anyway. Fair enough. Mister Dawson duly gets to work.

During the course of these structural alterations, an ancient coffin is unearthed buried in the walls of the house’s equally ancient cellar. It’s the resting place of a chap from the Olden Days called Cosmo Valdemar (what a magnificent name, sounds very Vincent Price-ish!) who was murdered by an ancestor of guess who’s…?

You’ll never believe this but Cosmo Valdemar was murdered by an ancestor of Mister Dawson’s, the very architect who’s charged with doing up the house now. The house, in fact, was once Mister Dawson’s family home before it was sold to Mrs. Biddulph and he grew up there. It’s a bit of a coincidence but there it is. Maybe that’s why Mrs. Biddulph gave Dawson the job of fixing up the house in the first place, because he knew the joint so well, see?

Anyway, it was a bad move on Dawson’s part to disturb the earthly remains of Cosmo Valdemar, who figures that now is a good time to avenge himself on the conveniently in-situ descendant of the man who killed him. Poor old Dawson is a sitting duck all right, but is there more to the legend surrounding Cosmo Valdemar than he’s aware of…?

‘Something came out of that coffin tonight. Something evil and strange…’

The next one is short but fun, and resembles nothing so much as a kind of miniature version of sci-fi movie THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS. A family consisting of a Mum, a Dad, a little girl and a playful and curious dog called Rusty, return from a holiday to realise that the vine growing at a ferocious speed on the side of their house has a mind of its own.

It’s a carnivorous mutation along the lines of a Venus Fly Trap, in fact, only much, much worse and more aggressive. When Man’s Best Friend is found strangled to death by the malicious vine, much to the distress of the family, the scientists are called in. They’ll really need to be on fire, however, to defeat this murderous freak of nature…

‘A plant like that could take over the world…’ 

There’s a sentence you don’t hear every day.

In the next vignette, a really annoying jazz musician called Biff Bailey, who seemingly never listens to the advice he’s given, travels to the West Indies with his band for a gig. They love the local calypso music. It conjures up images of tall, frosty-cold drinks with umbrellas in them on the beach. We could all use some of that this time of year.

Anyway, Biff in particular gets super-excited when a local musician fills him in on the strange and frenzied goings-on that occur when the natives are performing one of their voodoo dances. Biff unwisely decides to spy on one such session, where the native girls are alleged to strip off most of their clothing and get really uninhibited, if you get my drift.

He doesn’t see too many titties, but he’s certainly very taken by the wild music they’re performing so frenziedly, so he starts scribbling down the musical notes. He doesn’t take it too seriously when the chief warrior bellows at him:

‘YOU WROTE DOWN THE MUSIC OF THE GREAT GOD DEMBALA? IF YOU STEAL FROM HIM, THE GOD WILL BE REVENGED!’

It’s just a load of old native superstition and codswallop and mumbo-jumbo, right? Wrong, so wrong. When Biff returns home to good old Blighty, he finds that he’s accidentally brought a little bit of the West Indies home with him. And I don’t mean the venereal disease he’s almost certainly picked up as a result of the fraternisation he’s undoubtedly engaged in with the native ladies, the dirty fecker.

The next story is my favourite one because it’s got Christopher Lee in it. He plays the snobby and superior art critic Franklin Marshall, the guy who’s openly sceptical of Dr. Shreck’s profession.

Remember this? ‘Foretelling the future with a pack of cards? What rubbish!’ The narcissistic and unbearably pompous Franklin is nonetheless publicly pressured into tapping the magic deck of cards three times to bring forth a reading…

When he is bitterly humiliated by artist Eric Landor (Michael Gough: DRACULA, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) and a really cute monkey- yes, I said monkey!- Franklin Marshall, now a laughing stock in his own profession and a nervous wreck to boot, decides to take his revenge.

(Never mind that Eric Landor only does what he does to pay back Franklin for publicly eviscerating his work!) But vengeance turns to a nightmare when a series of terrifying events cause Franklin to take his eyes off the road. Could Eric Landor possibly have had a ‘hand’ in it…?

Finally, a ridiculously handsome and young-looking Donald Sutherland plays a doctor called Bob Carroll who has just brought his new French bride Nicole to his New England home.

When an outburst of vampirism seems to take place shortly after Nicole’s arrival, can the disturbed new hubby trust the opinions of the local medic, Dr. Blake, who seems to be suspiciously well up on his vampire lore? A bit too well up, I’d say…

There’s a bit at the end that ties up all the loose ends and the five men find out what fate really has in store for them. Beware the haunted tarot cards of the mysterious Dr. Schreck. They don’t call him Dr. Terror for nothing.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAutho

STEPHEN KING AND GEORGE A. ROMERO PRESENT: CREEPSHOW 2. (1987) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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CREEPSHOW 2. (1987) PRESENTED BY STEPHEN KING AND GEORGE A. ROMERO. BASED ON STORIES BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY MICHAEL GORNICK.

STARRING LOIS CHILES, GEORGE KENNEDY, DOROTHY LAMOUR, STEPHEN KING AND TOM SAVINI AS ‘THE CREEP.’

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a loving tribute to the timeless era of EC comics. Can’t you just see Stephen King as a nipper in the ‘Fifties and ‘Sixties, running to spend his pocket money on the horror comic books that must have at least partially inspired him to write his novels? Bless his buttons. What a gory-minded kid he must have been, lol. A delight to have in your class at school or on your Halloween sleepover. ‘Now Stephen dear, it’s your turn to tell a spooky story…!’

Anyway, this is an anthology film like its predecessor CREEPSHOW (‘I want my cake…!’) and features three scary tales, only one of which I found actually scared me, haha. The first vignette features Hollywood actors George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour as an elderly couple of store-keepers, Ray and Martha Spruce.

Their general store is dying on its feet, situated as it is in the town of Dead River, whose name says it all. The town is all but deserted, and it’s been a long time since any customers were able to pay cold hard cash for their purchases. The local Indian Chief is a case in point.

He comes into the store one day and presents Ray and Martha with a little bag of Indian treasures. You keep these until we can afford to pay you for all the goods we’ve bought on credit, he tells them. Don’t make beggars out of us now, he warns when Ray tries to give the stuff back. He leaves the shop all pleased with himself, unaware of the tragic little tableau that’s going to play out at the general store when his back is turned.

The store is robbed at gunpoint by none other than the Indian Chief’s nephew Sam Whitemoon. Sam, a real asshole of a guy with a whole bag of chips on his shoulder, is sick to the back teeth of being an impoverished Indian in a deadbeat town.

He’s inordinately proud of his good looks and long shining black Indian hair and he hopes to go to Hollywood to make his fortune in the movies. Well, why not? After all, there are a million other good-looking guys in Hollywood just queuing up to be busboys or barmen or waiters, so why shouldn’t Sam Whitemoon be one of them, lol…?

He and his two accomplices have to leave town for the bright lights of Los Angeles a little sooner than they’ve anticipated, however, when a double tragedy occurs during the robbery. They’ve reckoned without the retribution dished out by Old Chief Woodenhead, the wooden sculpture of an Indian Chief that’s stood outside the poor old general store since time immemorial. There’s gonna be a massacre tonight…

I loved THE RAFT, the middle vignette, in which four really annoying college students all get as high as kites and drive out to this lake that’s all deserted for the winter. They strip off and swim out to this raft thing in the middle of the lake. That’s when they notice this sort of moving floating mass on top of the water that’s getting closer and closer to them.

They reckon it’s some kind of oil slick and it’s certainly gooey enough and messy enough to be an oil slick, but what kind of oil slick pulls you under and strips the flesh from your bones like a school of starving piranha fish? No oil slick these college jocks and stoners have ever heard of, anyway.

On their floating raft in the middle of the lake, in full sight of their car and dry land, they’re trapped as effectively as if the lake were an ocean and there was no dry land for miles and miles and miles. I read the short story that inspired this particular vignette and it was eerily effective.

The final vignette, THE HITCH-HIKER, tells the story of a super-privileged married woman who clearly doesn’t know on what side her bread’s buttered. She risks her position as the wife of a rich lawyer to have sex with a much-younger-and-handsomer-than-her-husband male prostitute, for whose favours she has to pay cash. Well, I suppose if you’re highly-sexed and you’re not getting the good stuff at home… But still, paying for it when you’re a woman? It seems like madness to me. Men should be bloody well paying us, lol.

Anyway, one night when she’s driving back home from a vigorous sex session with Mr. Gigolo, she runs over a hitch-hiker in a yellow rain-slicker who’s looking for a ride to Dover. She decides to scarper from the scene of the crime and is horrified when she realises that the hitch-hiker she’s sure she killed is following her home…

Stephen King has a cameo in this one as a truck-driver who stops on the road when he sees a crowd gathering around the fallen hitch-hiker. He has a whole vignette to himself in the original CREEPSHOW movie as a goofy farmer. My favourite cameo of his in his own films is the one he has in MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE. Remember when he was trying to get money out of the ATM machine: ‘Honey, this machine called me an asshole…!’

Did this vignette form the basis for the movie I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, by the way? It’s got the just-won’t-stay-dead hitch-hiker in the yellow rain slicker and the night-time hit-and-run accident that left him for dead on the freeway. It certainly seems likely.

Anyway, enjoy CREEPSHOW 2 which, as I said initially, won’t really scare you but it’s a loving homage to the creepy comics you might have perused as a young ‘un if you’re an American male of a certain age, lol.

Here in Ireland I don’t think we ever really did the creepy comics thing. I only ever remember being able to get the English BEANO and the DANDY and the girly comics like the BUNTY and the MANDY.

These comics were great too, don’t get me wrong, but American kids were privy to an entire horror-and-superhero comic-book culture that we never really had over here so we Oirish were deprived in that way, sadly. However, in our favour we do have Mr. Tayto and Father Ted. Enough said.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor